PastorAppreciationMonthThis is Pastor Appreciation Month. Pastors should be appreciated every month of the year for the important, tireless, and unending work they do, but it’s still good to set aside a particular month to show our appreciation.

So let me take this opportunity to publicly thank my pastor, Mark Williams, and my associate pastor, Kris Billiter, for who they are, for all they do for so many people, and for the very positive impact each has on me, my family, and my church.

Mark has only been my pastor since mid-August 2014, but I cannot express how thrilled I am to have him and his great family at my church – Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Mark is gifted in many ways, but what stands out to me is the powerful preaching that God brings to pass through him every week. I recently heard Mark say that 90% of his time weekly is spent on sermon preparation, and it shows. I appreciate that passion for and devotion to the Word of God. A very high view of scripture is sadly lacking in many churches today, and it thrills my soul to know that Mark understands the centrality of the Word of God in his mission as pastor.

Mark has a great family as well with a wonderful wife and two precious children. It is clear that the family is fully devoted to one another as they serve Christ and others. I look forward to many years together as a faithful servant in the church.

It pleases me that Mark is as young as he is – 31 years old – because it increases my hope in the future of our church and the rock-solid grip God can have on people of all ages who willingly surrender their lives to His lordship. With my sons’ ages 31 and 34, my manager at my work being 31, managing a small team at work of others in their 20s, and having loved my college ministry years hanging out with those much younger than me, I have an affinity for a younger generation and am excited to see them lead others of all ages.

It has also been a tremendous blessing this past year and a half just prior to Mark being called as pastor to have our associate pastor Kris Billiter serve as interim pastor while we went through the long pastor search process. Kris is about to leave us to plant a new church elsewhere in the county, so we will be sad to see him go, but he goes with our blessing and heartfelt gratitude for the phenomenal way he led us in the interim period (and in other capacities for years before). I count him as a trusted friend and I know he will be used by God for great service now and in the years ahead. I would have been glad to have Kris as my pastor should that have come to pass, but God had other plans that we all now see as better for all concerned.

I was never a pastor, but I have served as associate pastor, minister of education, youth minister and college minister in a variety of paid ministry and volunteer roles. I can’t completely understand the thoughts and daily concerns of a lead pastor since I haven’t been one, but I can well imagine the joys and the difficulties of the role as one deals with fickle human beings (like me) while trying to be a faithful servant of the Most High God.

Through the years I haven’t always been the exemplary church member and am surely not now either. I had some adversarial times with a previous pastor – a dark and difficult period for my wife and me that is thankfully in the past. I don’t ever want a repeat of those days. The pattern of my life is to respect the person and the position of pastor and that is the way it should be.

So as I ponder ways I can continue to show appreciation to my pastor, here are some things that come to mind:

  • Pray by name daily for my pastor, his ministry, and his family.
  • Be an eager, active and vocal supporter of his ministry.
  • Make my default answer to requests he may make of me be “yes” unless there are extremely unusual circumstances that prevent doing so in particular situations.
  • Be reasonable in my expectations of him as a person; He’s not superman.
  • Respect his time and the time he needs with family as well as down time to get away and recharge.
  • Serve tirelessly in ways God has gifted me for the good of our church.
  • If I disagree with a leadership decision, either accept the authority of the position of pastor (barring clearly unbiblical decisions) or at least have the respect to first approach him privately with concerns rather than publicly.
  • Seek to give more than I take in the relationship.
  • Trust that in God’s sovereignty He has plans I know nothing about, and this pastor at this time in this place is a part of that eternal plan.

I’d love to hear what other ideas you may have.

To my fellow believers everywhere, I encourage you to go out of your way this month (and every month) to show appreciation to your pastor. Let him know you’re praying for him. Be kind. Say words of encouragement. Be a blessing to him and a helper in your shared ministry at church. Love him and those dear to him as though they are a part of your own family because they are. They are a part of a spiritual family that will spend eternity together. We would do well to work hard this side of heaven on getting a great jumpstart on that forever friendship.

Thank you, Mark, and thank you, Kris, and heartfelt thanks to the many other pastors I’ve had in 57 years on this earth who have all played a part in shaping me into who I am. The ripple effect of your work is incalculable. You are loved and greatly appreciated every day of every year.

May God richly bless you and your loved ones as you continue to faithfully serve Him.

GroupUsingPhonesIs this the least social time in human history?

The question may sound odd coming from one whose daily work centers around social media, but sometimes I wonder if he haven’t taken giant strides backward in recent years in our ability to simply be social with other real live human beings around us. Here are some examples of why I’m concerned…

  • It is nearly impossible to go out to eat with coworkers, family or friends without a majority of the people spending more time looking at their smartphones than actually engaging with and enjoying others sitting at the table with them.
  • How many homes have multiple family members each on some electronic device for long periods of time, but each rarely interacting in person with others under the same roof?
  • How distracted are we by multiple conversations on multiple social platforms to the point of never really giving our full attention to anyone – either face-to-face or online?

I’m a huge fan of social media and technology in general. It has been the focus of my life’s work for years and will be so for the foreseeable future. I’m not suggesting abandoning the technology; that isn’t going to happen, anyway. But somewhere along the line we must recognize that we’re missing out on the face-to-face present when our heads are buried in our phones, tablets or PCs. As an introvert, I need and cherish my times of solitude, but when I’m with others, they deserve my full attention.

We’re missing chances at rich conversation and deeper, more meaningful relationships when we don’t get past the depth of 140 characters in what we communicate. We limit our conversations and the wisdom we can glean from others’ experiences when our dependence on technology omits communication with those who don’t use the technology. Our monetary wealth and eagerness to spend it on gadgets contributes to a poverty in relationships due to the lack of investment we make in deeper, face-to-face interaction.

Life is always a balancing act. Living for extended periods on extremes is rarely advisable. If you wonder if the above picture fits you or not, it probably does. That doesn’t mean you run to the other extreme by deactivating your social media accounts or giving up your smartphone. It may mean, however, that you set it aside when in the presence of others to develop that which cannot exist online. It may mean you don’t respond to every notification sound or vibration when in the presence of others, reserving that check for when you leave their company.

Be here. Be present. Respect those you are physically with and give them your full attention. Let’s not let a wave of social media opportunities actually turn us into a less social generation. We can and should do better than that.

Time to Take #ESNchat to the Next Level!

Posted: September 24, 2014 in #ESNchat
Tags: ,

ESNchat-smallI’m very pleased to announce that as of Thursday, October 2, 2014 the good people at The Community Roundtable will take over ownership of my weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat. Some of the great benefits to the #ESNchat community will include the ability for @TheCR to have multiple people involved with leadership of the chat, more extensive promotional efforts behind it than I personally have been able to provide, expertise from years of research and organizing conversations between community practitioners, and a much broader network of practitioners and enthusiasts than I bring to the table, while still maintaining the ESN vendor-neutral position that has been so important to the success of #ESNchat. We got a taste last week in my absence of how well TheCR’s Hillary Boucher can host a chat, so we will all benefit from more of Hillary’s leadership along with others from TheCR.

This has been a great journey for me that began in the summer of 2013 when I started searching for a free online gathering place for Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) practitioners, vendors and enthusiasts. While there were some closed communities provided for those who use specific vendors, I wanted more than that in order to help nudge the industry forward. There needed to be a place where anyone using any platform could meet with others and discuss specific ESN topics of interest, learning from each other and building up a repository of content that could help many others along the way. Therefore, #ESNchat was born September 12, 2013.

Since its inception we’ve had about 230 wonderful people take part in the chats, currently averaging about 30-40 participants per week sharing hundreds of tweets each chat. Each week sees us adding a few new people. Some participants on the other side of the globe even ended up spawning a new chat of their own at a time more convenient to them. I’ve met an incredible network of people from whom I have learned much and will continue to learn from in the years ahead.

But I’m just one person who has been doing this in his free time outside of work and all my other volunteer activities. It may not seem like much of a time commitment to host a one-hour chat weekly, but there is a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye with planning topics, securing featured guests, archiving chats, sending reminders out about coming chats and posted archives, other ongoing promotional efforts, plus the other residual impact of requests for interviews, consulting, speaking engagements, etc. – all of which I love, of course, but which tends to cut into time which should usually be devoted to other things. I never got around, for example, to working with chat participants to co-author an ESN Handbook we discussed earlier in the year due to sheer limitation of time for more #ESNchat work than I was already doing.

Additionally, my role at work has recently expanded to not just be the community manager for our ESN, but to lead a small team of community managers who also have responsibility for our external social media, plus I’m now working with internal lines of business to consult with them as they stand up external online communities for their focused audiences. My work focus, therefore, is shifting more to community management for internal and external communities as well as launching new external-facing communities while still continuing to manage our ESN. As such, I don’t feel like it’s appropriate for me to devote so many hours per week purely to leading #ESNchat when ESNs are no longer my sole focus at work.

Since TheCR will be able to share the load of all that needs to be done among multiple people, I feel better about their ownership of it going forward. That’s why I approached them with the idea last month. I’ve been a member of TheCR for years and am continually impressed with the quality of their people and all they do. While they, of course, have paid membership (which I recommend) for those who want those benefits, #ESNchat participation will remain freely available to all as any Twitter chat should be.

Here’s what to expect over the next couple of weeks:

  • I’ll still host the chat on September 25 as I usually do. The topic will be Favorite ESN Resources.
  • Hillary Boucher and others from TheCR will co-host with me the chat on October 2 as we take a look back at what has transpired in #ESNchat to date and consider where we all want it to go in the future.
  • My final role as host will be at the end of the October 2 chat, after which TheCR will immediately assume ownership.
  • We will communicate with participants as soon as we can about the location of resources like chat archives and any website information about the chat. Related to that, I’ll be transferring ownership of the esnchat.com domain for them to use as they see fit. It currently points to a section of my blog, but that will change soon.
  • I have no plans to remove the existing chat archive links from my blog or to change the availability of the Storify archives from my account there, although I will not continue to personally archive future chats after the handoff to TheCR. They will assume that task as they see fit.
  • I want to create an ebook PDF compilation of all the chat archives from September 12, 2013 through October 2, 2014 that I will make freely available to all once it is complete. That will be a nice way to package up and give away my gift of a year’s ESN content to this wonderful community.

I cannot thank enough those of you who have come into my life over the past year as a result of #ESNchat. I started the chat solely to try to nudge the industry forward and I think in a small way we’re doing exactly that. I’m grateful for the speaking and other opportunities my role in the endeavor has provided, but those, too, take time that I ought to be devoting elsewhere. The journey has been amazing.

I’m not going away, though! I’ll still be a regular participant as a practitioner and… well… a proud papa can’t just walk away from his baby! So thank you to my faithful #ESNchat friends for making every Thursday from 2-3pm EDT one of my favorite hours of each and every week. Continue with me as active participants in what I know will be a great second year for #ESNchat under new leadership. Let’s all do what we can to keep moving the needle in the right direction so that enterprise social networking grows and makes the significant business impact for our companies and organizations that we all know is possible with this great form of communication.

You can read TheCR’s post about this development here. Onward and upward!

Top 10 ListI periodically update the Top 10 Posts list on this blog. It’s interesting to see what clicks with people and what seems to develop a life of its own without any promotional efforts behind it. Here is the list of the 10 most-viewed blog posts out of the 600+ I’ve published over the past 3.5 years in order of the most viewed:

1. My First Week With a Fitbit Flex - This was published a year ago and consistently has received more views monthly than any other for a long while. I was approached about placing advertising on the page because of the hits, but I don’t want ads on my blog, so I turned it down. I still wear the Flex faithfully. Doing so has transformed my daily activity, nutrition and sleep monitoring.

2. Throw a Plate On the Ground - This is a short, simple post about the lasting impact of hurting others.

3. The Worst Mistakes I’ve Made As An Employee - People always like to read about the faults of others. Perhaps some can learn from what I’ve done poorly.

4. What I Appreciate Most in Coworkers - It’s nice to find good in others and call it out. I’ve had some wonderful people to enjoy working with through the years and I appreciate them so much.

5. When Does Busy Become Too Busy? - I hope someday to actually learn this lesson that I keep preaching about.

6. Trust - This is an oldie from 2011. It’s hard to believe it still gets views. Trust is always relevant, though.

7. Lessons From My First Daddy-Doggie Date Day - The relationship I have with my dog, Callie, is different than I’ve ever had with a dog in 57 years of living. Every day is special with her, but this was a day set aside especially for her.

8. Book Review: “I Am a Church member” by Thom Rainer - Thom Rainer was a seminary colleague of mine at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1980s. My wife typed up his PhD dissertation on our original 30-pound IBM “Portable” PC. He is now president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources and does amazing work. This is a great little book that serves as a good reminder to church members about what we are (and are not) to be about as church members.

9. Deciding When to Leave Your Job - A few things that guide my thoughts during times of significant work transition.

10. Rethink Routine - This is one of five corporate values espoused by my employer – a very worthy value for corporations and individuals.

Many thanks to all the readers of this blog. I love hearing your comments and encourage you to add them to any and all posts of interest. Thanks for letting me share my personal and professional life with you in this way.

keep-calm-and-finish-strongI’ve been very goal oriented the past two years in publishing on this blog very specific goals in the categories of body, mind and spirit. The goals for 2013 were many and I was glad to accomplish nearly all of them. I started down a similar path at the beginning of 2014, but soon felt burdened by so many time-consuming goals outside of work and volunteer endeavors. By my March update I had reduced the goals a little bit, and by May I had decided to take a few months off from a couple of them entirely. My brain and my spirit needed a rest from the physical activity goals more than my body did. I still continued work on most of the goals, but filed a couple under “not gonna happen” and went on with life.

Now that we’re in the final third of the year and the end is in sight, I’m back in gear and ready to finish out the year completing those goals that are most important and putting aside officially those that aren’t. I’m already looking forward to a very different approach in 2015 which will not  have me listing all kinds of goals for body, mind and spirit. I’ll talk more about what it will include when the time comes.

With that background, here is where I stand with the original goals for 2014 and what my plan is to close out the year with each:

BODY

  • Average at least 10,000 steps per day every week. After taking the second quarter off from this, I’m back on track. My company has a 100 Day Dash going on right now until late November where we’re on teams recording and tracking steps daily. My goal for these 100 days is to never get less than 11,000 steps per day and so far I’ve done that. I’ll end the year strong and will keep at this pace until I reach our company’s top rewards program level which should happen around the end of the year.
  • Do a stretching routine daily. I started the year doing this faithfully but took a break after hurting my back. I never got back into the routine and don’t intend to for now. I’ll stretch before and after running, but not otherwise.
  • Run 365 miles for the year. I haven’t run 10 miles this year. I walk 5-6 miles a day between work and walking the dog, but I just haven’t gotten back into running. This goal will not be met. Walking will have to be good enough.
  • Average 7.5 hours of sleep a night. My average is more like 6.5 hours per night year to date. That isn’t enough. My body is calling for more and I have to find a way to make it happen. Of course, the 6.5 is more than years past, but I need more than years past.
  • Average no more than 45 hours per week for work. For the first year in the 11+ I’ve had with my company where I’ve tracked hours, I’m actually staying within the 45 per week limit. I’ve learned to adjust some things and manage my days differently to get to this point.

MIND

  • Author or co-author a book related to enterprise social networks. Now that we just completed the first year of the weekly Twitter chat I lead on enterprise social networks – #ESNchat – I’m planning on putting together a free e-book PDF that contains the first year’s chat archives plus a little background info on the experience. It’s the one and only book I’ll be responsible for this year, but I’m pretty proud of what it should be.
  • Write 100 blog posts. Earlier in the year I changed this goal to average one post per week instead of 100 for the year. Making that goal should not be a problem.
  • Set up Pinterest boards and pins to coincide with my blog categories and posts. In the interest of time, I abandoned this goal earlier in the year.
  • Reserve at least one hour per day for unstructured, unplanned time not related to any tasks or goals. I don’t track this and I know I don’t always accomplish it either, but I’m certain I’ve been better about allowing myself guilt-free free time this year. There is still room for improvement here, though.

SPIRIT

  • Finish reading The Apologetics Study Bible. I should be able to do this just fine. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve read Genesis – Isaiah so far, taking this one in order cover to cover.
  • Read these three major theology books: (1) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, (2) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison, and (3) Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. To date I’ve completed the third book and am about 2/3 through the first one. I should be able to complete this goal as planned. I have to say that Grudem’s book is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. I’ve love to take part in or lead a one-year study of the contents of this book with a group of people.
  • Have a daily Bible reading and devotional time. I’ve missed days from time to time which is disappointing. Nothing should crowd this from my schedule. There is really no excuse for that. I must do better.

So there you have my goal update for mid-September 2014 – on track with some things, abandoned a few and modified others. At least I’m in that mode now of seeing the finish line for the year ahead of me and I’m working hard at a number of the goals to finish strong those that are most important.

What about you? How are you coming on what you set out to accomplish this year?